A Look Back At Sunday

Well, I’m finally back home; so I guess that means the Month of May is now officially over. The letdown hasn’t hit yet, as my carload had plenty to talk about from the weekend. Tomorrow is when reality sets back in and life gets back to normal – ugh! I’m not too tired. I slept well and we had a nice drive home – save for one side-trip.

Susan wanted to make our annual stop in Portland, TN to buy strawberries at a local farm. Normally, they have them picked, sitting out ready to buy. Today there were none. We were told that if we wanted strawberries, we would have to pick them ourselves. Seeing in her face how she really wanted the strawberries, I couldn’t help remembering how the last two weekends – she sat patiently at the track, while I went to the media center at the Speedway and tended to my blogger duties. We picked strawberries. After an hour of picking in a hot, muggy field – we lugged back sixteen quarts. I suppose it was the least I could do.

Other than some glimpses of the local replay on Channel 6 in Indianapolis on Sunday night, I haven’t watched the replay yet. There is nothing like being there, but you know so much more while watching on TV. Whenever I come home and watch the replay, I always have several moments where I say, “Oh, so that’s what happened”. There are several unanswered questions I have, but I’ll wait until I watch the ABC telecast before I comment on them.

As I said yesterday…it was HOT! As I was leaving Indiana today, I heard on the radio that the infield care center treated over 1500 fans for heat-related problems. Susan was almost one of them. Somewhere past the halfway point, she left our seats and quietly said she had to get into the shade. She returned maybe thirty minutes later. What she didn’t tell me until Sunday night was that while sitting in our seats; she first started feeling dizzy and then almost fainted. She wasn’t sure she would even make it down the steps to escape into the shade. Once down there, even with all of the heat – she started feeling chills. She thought about seeking medical attention, but sat it out in the shade with a breeze blowing and finally got to feeling better. Susan never mentioned any of this to me. Why? Because she didn’t want to spoil the race for me. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it sure says a lot about her.

I still haven’t fully digested what I witnessed yesterday. Before watching the replay, I’ll say it was a better race than last year. Last year had no green-flag pit stops among the leaders. There seemed to be more passing than last year, I suppose because of the aero-package that was tweaked at Kentucky. I don’t care for fuel mileage races, and that’s what this one boiled down to, but it certainly made for an interesting final ten laps.

I’ve seen the Mike Conway crash on YouTube. It was even more frightening looking than it appeared on the monitors at the track. Although he suffered fractures to his lower left leg, compression fractures in his back and is likely out for the season – he is lucky to be alive. I’m not necessarily a fan of the proposed Dallara, but they certainly build a strong tub.

The big disappointment of the day was in the traditional pre-race ceremonies. One portion of the ceremonies I wouldn’t mind losing is when Florence Henderson sings a protracted version of “God Bless America”. Somewhere along the way a few years ago, Ms. Henderson became part of the pre-race program. I’m not sure I would classify her as a has-been, since she was never that famous at her peak. But when she draws out this long version of the song, it becomes tiresome and boring instead of instilling feelings of patriotism. Sundays was worse, because the sound crackled over the PA and made it just that much more irritating.

The PA system was about to get worse. I’m told that it came out fine over the television broadcast, but when Jewel started singing the National Anthem – all the folks in the stands saw, was her mouthing the words in silence on the video boards. It finally came over the speakers at the track, a few lines in. It started out quietly, and then someone turned up the volume until it began to screech and reverberate. To make an already bad situation worse, the fly-over came about a minute after she had finished singing.

They now play a pre-recorded video message before the playing of “Taps” which tends to make the fans in the stands think it’s a commercial for something. Everyone was talking and I don’t blame them. It was confusing. Then, with no warning the PA joined “Taps” already about five notes in progress. There was annoying feedback that took away from what seemed to be an otherwise flawless performer by the trumpeter. It’s a shame, because that is always one of the more moving parts of the day.

The PA crackled and screeched a few times during my favorite part of the day – when Jim Nabors sings “Back Home Again In Indiana”. Compared to what it did during the other performances, it wasn’t that bad – but whoever was running the soundboard for the PA, needs to get it right before next year.

One nice touch that was added this year was when Dave Calabro turned the microphone over to his old friend Tom Carnegie so that he could introduce Mari Hulman George to give the command to start engines. I saw Tom Carnegie before the race in front of the Pagoda, while I was strolling pit lane taking everything in. He was in a wheel chair and looked frail, but he had a long line of well-wishers waiting to speak to him and he seemed eager to talk to everyone of them. I started to join them, but figured I would leave him alone. I would be one more person to bother him. But as I walked by, I heard that unmistakable voice. It sounded as strong as ever in person, with no microphone.

Speaking of roaming the pits – I say this at the risk of sounding like I’m rubbing people’s noses in it, but I’m not – walking up and down the pit road was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done. I always sat in the stands and wondered how all of the “beautiful people” who obviously knew nothing about the race, found themselves on the other side of the pit wall. Yesterday, I found myself among them. I may not have been rubbing elbows with the beautiful people, but I don’t think there were too many people out there who appreciated that privilege more than I did.

I was out there on two separate occasions yesterday. The second time held all of the hustle and bustle of Race Day morning and was certainly interesting to watch. The first time however, was much more enjoyable. I wasn’t alone by any means, but it was not crowded at all and I was able to stroll leisurely without anyone near. I walked all the way from the first pit to the last pit and back. I just took it all in. I thought about how I was walking where Lloyd Ruby ripped the side out of his fuel tank in 1969, or where Rick Mears had the terrifying pit-fire in 1981. I was walking where Parnelli Jones abandoned his burning car in 1964.

As I looked around the track with an unobscured view, I kept thinking about how fortunate I was to be walking where great drivers like Vukovich, Shaw and Rose had walked – and driven. I wasn’t overcome by emotion – I rarely am. Instead, I just had a calm serene feeling about me, as I walked alone with so much going on just on the other side of the pit wall. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be able to freely walk down pit road on Race Day of the Indianapolis 500 and take as long as I wanted. It almost seemed surreal.

This week may be a little sporadic with my posts. There probably won’t be a post every day this week, as Indy talk finally winds down. I want to watch the replay and give my perspective on that. I want to share some pictures from the weekend and get more into the actual race.

One day this week, I also want to write about the very interesting tour of the ABC/ESPN production complex that I had on Sunday morning. As accommodating and friendly as Andy Hall of ESPN was while taking me through there, it won’t affect any criticism I will have of the broadcast. Andy has read some of my critiques. In fact, he knows most of the bloggers out there. While he doesn’t agree with a lot that is written about his network, he doesn’t have a problem with it so long as it is presented responsibly. That’s fair enough.

Texas is also coming up at the end of the week and we’ll have to turn our attention to that, then after that Oilpressure.com will go back to regular posting on Monday, Wednesday & Friday with extra posts on race weekends. Thanks for following along for the Month of May.

George Phillips


10 Responses to “A Look Back At Sunday”

  1. I was in Stand A and I didn’t notice any issues with the PA during the ceremonies. One thing I always do during pre-race ceremonies is listen to the PA through headphones. Next year, you might consider doing that. I always thinbk in general the PA is hard to hear on its own. If you tune into 101.1 FM at the track you can pick up the audio feed of the PA. I always listen to that until the parade laps and then I switch to WIBC for the radio newtork coverage.

    • Travis R Says:


      How did you like your seats in Stand A? My friends and I were in Stand J, and even though we like those, we thought it would be fun to try to get down to Turn 1, so I’m curious as to how you like them (and if you’ve ever sat anywhere else). Are the stands full in that area? Do you get a decent view of the pits?


      • Travis,
        I have attended 17 500′s (with some gaps in there, my first was 1983/Sneva). I have sat in several locations, but Stand A is my personal favorite by far. I love Stand A (view of most of the front straight and most of turn 1, directly across from the first 3 pits and pit out (so great view of the pit action as well), plus large jumbo tron screen across the way to follow the action and best of all, Stand A is covered!! Great for rain delays (God forbid) and to avoid getting roasted in the sun. Even this past Sunday with all the heat, Stand A was not that bad since it is shaded and there is usually a breeze blowing through. I absolutely love the view of the pits as well. Also be careful because teh first several rows of Stand A are not under the overhang so they are not shaded and they are too low (makes 1/2 the track not visible). We are in row NN which is plenty high enough to see all of the track. I would think you would want to be at least row CC or higher to see the track and be in the shade. I also love Stand A for the hour before the race, the first two rows are placed on the grid right in front of Stand A. One thing that I thought was really neat this year is that I was watching Roger Penske standing on the track for the 1/2 hour before the drivers get in the car. During this time, they always have active military troops circle the track in the back of pickup trucks as a salute to Memorial day. During the 10 minutes or so of the trucks leaving the pits and going on th track, the whole crowd usually stands and applauds. It’s always a special moment. Anyhow, I noticed the Captain during this time, and he walked over closer to the pit wall and cheered and clapped with his hands over his head for every truck that went by with soldiers in the back (there are probably at least 30 trucks so it takes a while).

        Anyhow, I thought that was a really cool thing to see Roger do.

        I know people are passionate about their seats in different stands for a variety of reasons, but I personally love Stand A. The only draw back to my seats in Stand A is that you cannot see the top of the scoring pylon due to the roof. You can see positions 33-13 on the pylon, but from my row you can’t see the top of the pylon for rows 1-12. However the jumbotron always cycles through positions 1-33; so you can look at that but it is not as convenient as just glancing at the pylon.

      • Travis R Says:

        Awesome, thanks for the info, Rick – I appreciate it!

  2. George, I noticed all of those same issues with the PA system in Stand B, and I was wondering if the crackling was just in that one spot. As much as I like to poke fun at the Purdue Band (being a former member of Indiana University’s band), I felt bad that “On the Banks of the Wabash” and their portion of “Back Home Again…” were made to sound so awful. Also, is it too much to ask to get people who can actually sing to perform some of those songs? Jim Nabors is the only one in the whole bunch who sounded good…Florence is warbly, the army Major girl had her words wrong and sang like one of those people who barely make the top 40 in American Idol, and I initially thought Jewel couldn’t be heard because she might’ve been singing outside of human aural range — when she actually could be heard, it still sounded terrible.

    I probably should’ve mentioned at the top of this comment that I tend to be critical of anthem singers and audio issued really get on my nerves.

    Oh, and please tell me you took photos of ABC’s compound! As a TV type myself, I’d totally like to see what they bring to the race!

    • Oilpressure Says:

      You’re right! I had completely forgotten about the Army Major that botched the lyrics of “America the Beautiful”.

      Instead of singing “…God shed his grace on thee” as it is written; she sang “…God shed his grace on ME”. It sounded just a tad bit egocentric. – GP

  3. Ryan Johnson Says:

    The invocation was my biggest disappointment with the pre-race ceremonies. Reverend Daniel Buechlein always brings tears to my eyes with his emotional prayer, but my professor recently told me that Daniel is in poor health and probably doesn’t have much time left. May everyone keep him in your prayers. I thought the race was pretty good (difficult to follow in person) and I only wished TK and Dario had enough ethanol to battle it out to the end. One thing that did catch my attention that I haven’t seen mentioned was the attendance. I sat in the SW Vista and it was (nearly) sold out in that area of the track. However, I could see some bare spots in the North end. Did that have to do with the heat? It was quite confusing because normally (at least to me) the North Chute is always full. However, pretty much no complaints from me. . .I had a great time like always!

    • The north chute hasn’t appeared full in several years from our sears in J. We compared our pictured from Sunday to those of past years and it the north chute was about the same as in recent years. Turn 3 had significantly more empty seats. What I found shocking was the huge number of empty seats I. The tower terrace. I’m not talking pre-race either. I’m talking about the drop of the green.

  4. Travis R Says:

    Great thoughts, as always, George!

    I was in Stand J, and all the PA problems were going on there, as well. I was also confused by the pre-Taps “commercial.” When the PA was working, it seemed like it was louder than I remember. I did rent a track scan, which was nice.

    Nonetheless, my friends that came down from Minnesota and I had a great time, and we thought the race was really good, even though none of us picked Dario to win.

  5. I wonder how old the PA system is at IMS?

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